It’s akin to organ donation by homes that are about to perish.
To help Habitat for Humanity afford to build other housing for low-income people, volunteers are salvaging usable materials from 27 now-vacant homes in Midvale that the Utah Department of Transportation bought to demolish in clearing way for Interstate 15 widening.
“Years ago, UDOT was just basically demolishing homes and taking them to the landfill,” said Ed Blake, director of Salt Lake Valley Habitat for Humanity. “We approached UDOT about letting us go in and salvage all the materials we could.”
UDOT agreed, and Habitat for Humanity has been doing that now for six years. It has salvaged materials from 130 homes so far, not counting the 27 it is now working on.
Blake said some of materials go to homes that the group builds itself. But most are sold at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore at 1276 S. 500 West in Salt Lake City, where contractors, businesses and others also donate products that are sold at discount prices.
He noted that one home now being demolished seems to have been renovated recently. “It has granite countertops and new cabinets.”
So volunteers carefully package up entire kitchens, shrink wrap material, put it on a pallet and sell everything, including, literally, the kitchen sink. “They may sell for $500, and they sell like crazy, actually,” he said.
Volunteers also remove doors, windows, lighting fixtures and anything that may be of use. “Some appliances are usually also in the houses, and we take and sell them,” he said.
Blake notes that an aunt and uncle of his once lived in one of the houses now being salvaged. “So I’m glad we can save what we can,” he said. “This keeps 681 tons of refuse out of the landfill every year” besides helping the nonprofit and low-income Utahns.
UDOT spokesman John Gleason said, “Partnering with Habitat for Humanity is one of the great things we do. It’s important to show people that nothing is wasted, and everything that can be salvaged is salvaged.”
Neighbors of the vacated homes in Midvale complained earlier this year that the agency was taking too long to demolish the homes, and said that allowed drug users and others to squat in the homes, increasing graffiti, vandalism and crime in the area.
Gleason said UDOT is moving as quickly as it can to demolish homes once it acquires them — but it takes up to 90 days to obtain needed permits, properly shut off utilities and remove hazardous materials such as asbestos.
Working with Habitat for Humanity does not cause any further delays, Gleason said. UDOT can demolish only about three homes per week, giving the nonprofit time to salvage materials before that.
“Sometimes we’ve been in there just 45 minutes before the bulldozer,” Blake said.